Thursday, March 18, 2010

Think before you kvetch

by Michael

Over on the Waxman Agency blog, there’s a great piece for authors on how not to piss off your editor. The main advice is very good, and comes directly from a “very smart lady who people love to work with.”

But I wanted to highlight a few of the smaller points that might be overlooked. Before writing a vitriolic email to your editor (or publicist or assistant or whomever), call your agent first. We all get frustrated, we all need to vent, and your agent is the person to do that with. We agents play an important part of the publishing process because we serve as a buffer between author and editor in contentious situations, giving perspective to the author and communicating clearly and professionally with the editor. We may be able to address the matter in a way that doesn’t offend the editor and gets the client what she wants. So call your agent!

For all authors entering the publishing process, please read, memorize, and repeat this sentence: “I’d add an additional caveat that you have to let the people on your team be good at what they are paid to do (otherwise why are you working with them?), and accepting that your process of publication won’t be exactly like what your friend/critique partner/Stephenie Meyer’s was like is also an excellent skill to cultivate as you enter the publishing process.” Let me tackle the first part of that sentence: “Let the people on your team be good at what they are paid to do.” The advice in the first half of this sentence may seem obvious, but I don’t think it’s often adhered to. Authors (ok, and agents) often second-guess the editor, the designer, the publicity and marketing teams, the publisher...the list goes on. And, we have every right to do so, especially in a business where most things are subjective. But I think everyone in the publishing process would benefit from taking a step back and thinking, “We all want to succeed here. I may not agree with the decision, but let’s discuss why the decision was made and figure out how to move forward in the most productive way.” Especially in these tough times, I like to think that we’re all in this together, trying to make the best books possible.

The second half of the sentence is just as important. The publishing version of keeping up with the Joneses is the most destructive game an author can play. Instead of worrying about what so-and-so got for an advance, print run, publicity/marketing plan, gift from editor, etc., worry about making you book as successful as it can be. I’ve seen authors destroyed by jealousy and preoccupied with parts of the process well beyond their control. Don’t let it happen to you!

We’re all in this business together, and working collaboratively with one another is the best way to achieve our mutual goals.


  1. Michael,
    You are the voice of reason. I'm pinning this to my wall.

  2. I've been wondering: Do cover designers generally read enough of the book to get a feel for it before they design the cover? Or are they given a blurb and go from there?

  3. Anon 4:50 - It depends on the book. Sometimes they've read it, sometimes they've read part, sometimes they've only read a description. But covers don't just come from the designers -- the entire publishing team usually has some say in the cover.

    - Michael

  4. This is what I love about agents: having somebody who's looking out for me as an author, even if sometimes it's saving me from myself. Thanks for the important role you play and for this great post. :)

  5. Michael - I think this is excellent advice. Kvetching in these situations is of no use and counter-productive. I'd add a converse or caveat or something, though, and that is that editors and publicists and others in publishing need to embrace that same collaborative spirit all along the line. Sometimes authors and agents do have ideas that will work, even if they go counter to traditional publishing paths. Authors should not fear speaking up (and agents should be supporters) and quite often, they do. That still isn't the same as kvetching and behaving badly, of course, but I still think it's important to keep in mind.

  6. Michael, You win the prize for best blog post title ever! And, of course, the content is just as riveting. Thank you for this. I'll make sure my agent reads it so she can be prepared, in advance, for any kvetching that may occur. ;-)

  7. Authors destroyed by jealousy? Wow. Jealousy - an emotion that needs to be addressed and subdued quickly and often before it gets out of hand and devours you. Wise words. Thanks...and let the author beware.

  8. Great advice! I've had two editors, each with their own way of doing things. I liked them both and learned a lot from each. I didn't always agree with them, but knew they wanted my book to succeed as much as I did. Thanks for a great post.

  9. Great blog Michael. This is something we all forget, everyone in the industry needs a courteous reminder such as yours.

    Iin part it's due to the bloated aspect of book publishing today, too many people in too many meetings, who often forget that authors should be included in some of the design, marketing, etc. decisions.

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